The war of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest battles which were fought between the United States and Japan. The culmination of this war was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States using the atomic bomb. In this regard, this paper will look at some of the issues which faced by the Army, Marines, the Okinawans and the Japanese soldiers. As such, this research will focus on Kamikaze attacks and the mass suicides of the Japanese civilians, the U.S. Congress investigation of the invasion, strategies used by both sides (Japan and the United States), the role of Okinawa in capturing Tokyo, strategic importance of Okinawa, the Japanese Soldiers’ propaganda and the challenges that were faced by the Marines and the Army.
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The 20th century witnessed a lot of wars as continents and nations struggled to establish themselves as power-movers in terms of social, economic, political and military power. In line with this, there were different wars and Cold Wars which brought dramatic changes, especially on the international scene and affected the way nations relate to each. It is important to take note of the fact that some of these wars resulted in the creation of permanent enemies between and among nations while in some cases, alliances were formed which have lasted to the present. Whereas the 20th century witnessed major wars which have ever been fought between and among nations, the two important wars which are remembered with nostalgia even at present are the World War I and World War II. However, irrespective of the fact that these wars shaped social, economic, political and military arenas across the globe, World War II is more conspicuous as compared to World War I.
In line with this, some of the major participants who participated in this war are the United States of America and Japan. Notably, the United States was more had taken a passive approach to this war until when it was, in a surprise attached, bombed by Japan, destroying much of its military unit in Pearl Harbor. This move by Japan awoke a sleeping giant, who for the first time since the beginning of this war saw the need to take an active role in forming alliance and joining the war front. The awakening of the United States resulted in a more confrontation approach to the World War II, with a focus on retaliating against Japan, which according to the United States had used double in attacking the United States. In line with this, the United States utilized key geographical regions in Asia to take revenge against Japan. One of these regions was the Island of Okinawa which hosted one of the fiercest battles in the Pacific campaigns.
To begin with, ‘Okinawa was the largest amphibious offensive of the Pacific campaign and the last major campaign of the Pacific War. As a result of this, more troops put ashore, more ships were used, more supplies transported, more bombs dropped, more naval guns fired against shore targets than any other operation in the Pacific. More people died during the Battle of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The casualties totaled more than 38,000 Americans wounded and 12,000 killed or missing, more than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan were conscripts killed and perhaps 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished in the battle’ (Global Security 2010). These and many other cases of casualties have been reported in the course of analyzing the Okinawa battle. Following this point, it is now important to delve deeper into the attacks of Kamikaze and mass suicide of the Japanese civilians; the investigation of the invasion by the United States Congress as result of the sustained casualties; the strategies which were used by both side, namely the United States and Japan, and the role of Okinawa in capturing of Tokyo.
Research Finding and Discussion
Kamikaze Attacks and the Mass Suicides of the Japanese Civilians
One of the major threats to the United States military during the Battle of Okinawa were the Kamikaze attacks which began in October 1944. To begin with, the use of Kamikaze (which is defined as ‘divine wind’) in resisting the United States’ invasion of Japan was a strategy which was used by the Japanese government to deal with the imminent attacks of the United States. In reference to Marx (2008), one could argue that the military leaders of Japan planned and executed the systematic slaughter of their youth -already being aware that no hope of victory was at hand (p.10). Following this argument, the Kamikaze attacks were suicide attacks which were perpetrated by the Japanese pilots as a way of executing surprise attacks on United States vessels in the pacific.
There are different roles which were played by the Kamikaze attacks on the United States and in this war in general. Note that the Kamikaze pilots endangered the United States operations serious (p.12). These attacks had serious psychological impact on the United States leaders and soldiers. Importantly, the Japanese military was completely devastated and the only way this nation could come around and avoid total defeat was to sacrifice its own people in suicide missions that were meant to affect the psychological perceptions of the United States leaders and soldiers and thus ease their movement and impact on Okinawa. Needless to say, the Kamikaze attacks effectively managed to instill fear into the United States leaders and the soldiers. Nonetheless, this acted as compelling force among the United States military that this war had to be worn.
On the other hand, there was a lot of Mass Suicide among the Japanese civilians as they engaged the American in the Okinawa War. In reference to Dodd & Richmond (1999), it is estimated that one third of the population of Okinawa died in the war, many in mass suicides that preceded the surrender while other died from disease and starvation (p.745). Despite the fact that most Japanese civilians as well as the soldiers especially the pilot lost their lives in mass suicide campaign against the United States owing to their traditional military beliefs, they cost the Americans materially (Hellegers 2001).
U.S. Congress Investigation of the Invasion
The Battle of Okinawa still lingers in the minds of most Americans and war historians, scholars and researchers in the United States and across the globe. Apart from being among the fiercest battles which involved the United States military, it was also among the war engagement in which this nation recorded a very high level of casualties. It has been noted that the American losses at Okinawa were so heavy as to bring Congressional calls for an investigation into the conduct of the American military commanders (Ryan, 2007, p.80). This was further worsened by the fact that the cost of this battle in terms of lives, time and material weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later (p.80).
It is important to note that there were no thorough intelligence reports which revealed much concerning Okinawa. As a result of this, this island was treated lightly by the United States military, irrespective of the fact that it was a critical point in attacking the Japan’s mainland. Therefore, the Congressional Investigations were to examine the cause of high casualty levels and the deflated military costs during this battle. It is estimated that at one point, there was one United States military casualty for six Japanese who were killed.
Strategies used by both sides
There were different strategies which were employed by both sides, that the United States and Japan in the Okinawa war. To begin with, the use of the Kamikaze in combating the Americans was one of the important war strategies of the Japanese, despite the fact that this meant sacrificing more civilian people. As a result, the Kamikaze was deployed to destroy America war vessels as a way of weakening their participation in this war. In reference to Wood (2007), the shimpu air tactics adopted in 1944 were a practical and relatively efficient method of engaging and inflicting significant losses on American naval forces at a time when on other method of air attack worked (Wood, 2007, p.96). The major purpose of using Kamikaze as a strategy was to immobilize the naval forces in order to reduce their ability to attack the Okinawa Island and Japan’s mainland. In addition to this, the Japanese carrier needed to be safeguarded and developed to enhance its capability to resist the United States attacks as well as be able to launch war planes against the United States forces. Apart from this, the Japanese government trained most civilians (corps) with military tactics who were able to fight as effectively as the military itself.
On the other hand, the United States of America employed as heavy air strikes as it major strategy which involved destroying the Japanese military bases, especially their military planes (Williams, 2005, p.51). This was then to be followed by land troop who were tasked with wiping away the remaining little resistance. However, this strategy was further enhanced in Okinawa whereby there were increased cost or rather use of weaponry, which could not be compared to any other war in that the United States was involved in during World War II.
Role of Okinawa in Capturing Tokyo
Okinawa played a central role that led to the capture of Tokyo by the United States military in the Pacific War. Notably, initial reports indicated that there was no intelligence information in regard to the role of Okinawa in assisting the American military to capture Tokyo and thus overpower Japan. To begin with, Okinawa presented a strategic position to the United States and as a result, the United States could easily attack Tokyo from this geographical point. In consistent with this, the use of carriers to launch military aircrafts was not promoted. Therefore, the United States of America build airbases in Okinawa which would later be used to launch attack on Tokyo. According to Crozier (2005), the Okinawa Island was a major point which was used by the United States military to launch its attack on Japan.
On the other hand, the resistance which was experienced by the United States at Okinawa played a critical role in motivating the United States to pursue further attack on Tokyo and Japan. It is argued that the after carrying an evaluation of its casualties, the United States choose to use the atomic bomb on Tokyo as a way of carrying out a revenge attack on Japan and forcing it to surrender to the United States enter into a peace treaty. As it was mentioned earlier, the cost of this battle of Okinawa in terms of lives, time and material weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later (Ryan, 2007, p.80). Stated in other words, the decision by the United States to use the atomic bomb against Tokyo was influenced partly by the state of affairs on Okinawa Island. Therefore, apart from being a launching pad of the United States military, the Okinawa Island also played a major part in the military decisions which were made against Japan.
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Strategic Importance of Okinawa
Okinawa was of strategic importance both to the American and the Japanese in the Okinawa war. To begin with, Okinawa was strategically placed in terms of geographical position, both to the Japanese and the Americans. In reference to Kawashima (2005), the geographical importance of Okinawa is best illustrated by its proximity to all major cities in East Asia (p.43). In consistent with this, the bases in Okinawa were critical strategic locations for deployment of the United States forces. Apart from being a focal point from which the United States could access the adjacent cities in Japan and in other parts of Asia, Okinawa was more of a camping place of the United States soldiers as they arrived on the battle field. Most of these soldiers camped at Okinawa before proceeding to the battlefields. Similarly, some military costs could easily be reduce by building airfields in this place which allowed the United States to respond quickly to any attack of Japan as well as monitor and gather important intelligence information from this point.
On the other hand, Japan too valued Okinawa as one of its key points to their success in this war. According to Allen (2002) the Okinawans were both a nuisance and a threat to the Japanese victory in this war (p.33). Whereas this was the perception of the Japanese military, they also recognized that the population of the Okinawa could provide important labor services to the Japanese military during the time of the war. As a result, most of the Okinawans, able men, and boys and girls were enlisted into the Japanese military that would then provide labor together with the villagers (p.33). On the other hand, some of the people from Okinawa were evacuated to the mountains and caves with their clothes alone, while their other possessions were utilized as military supplies. This emanated from the fact that it was assumed that the Okinawans were not part of the Japanese community.
Japanese Soldiers’ Propaganda
The war in Okinawa was also characterized by the Japanese Soldiers’ propaganda which was meant to disorient the United States’ soldier from pursuing their course to victory. In line with this, among the propaganda programs which were utilized by the Japanese soldiers involved argument that the Americans were monster who were bent on committing atrocities against the Japanese people during the war (Hellegers, 2001, p.65). This was meant to arouse the fear among the Japanese people in regard to accepting the fact that the Americans were fighting for a just course as well as discouraging the Japanese people from sharing any information which could give the Americans an upper hand in the Okinawa war. On the other hand, the Japanese propaganda also targeted its own soldiers who were discouraged from surrendering to the American forces despite the fact that most of them were overwhelmed by the United States’ soldiers.
As a result of this, most Japanese soldier opted to fight to the last point rather than surrender to the Americans. Additionally, some of these soldier committed suicide when they were overpowered by the United States soldiers, making it difficult to capture Japanese soldiers. Notably, the Japanese propaganda reiterated that any person who surrendered to the American military would face torture from the Americans who were perceived as merciless, and they were ready to rape, torture and kill the Japanese. This increased fear, not only among the Japanese people but also among its soldiers while at the same time increasing their hatred towards the Americans and would everything possible to kill the Americans or destroy their military equipments.
Challenges Faced by the Marines and the Army
There were many challenges which were faced by the Marines and the Army. To begin with, the attacks from the Kamikaze were some of the scary attack which were faced by the United States military since these groups of people were suicide bombers and did not care how they died as long as their death was accompanied by the death of dozens of Americans (Jamieson, 2009). This was particular so when the Marines and the Army were attacked even before landing on the shore. Following this point, most of the Marines and the Army were psychologically disturbed since they had fear of imminent attacks from the Kamikaze and the Japanese soldiers.
In addition, the issues of logistics also posed a challenge both to the Marines and the Army. Note that both the Army and the Marines were supposed to face the enemy. However, the Army and the marine use totally different tactics in war. In reference to Jamieson (2009), the Army is a slow-mover in the battle ground whereas the Marines work by moving very fast and as a result, the Army and the Marines flanked each other (p.44). This hardened their battles and most of them were exposed to the enemy fire.
Finally, the Army and the Marines were also affected by other external problems such as jungle rot and fleas, Hepatitis A, Dengue Fever and dysentery. The Army and the Marines both suffered these challenges. The situation was worsened by the fact that medical supplies were shortcoming or was hindered by heavy fire. In addition, some of these Marines and Armies lost their peers or platoons leading to stress and depression.
The second world, as was earlier mentioned is remembered with nostalgia among most people the present world. Notably, this war shaped the way people and nations interact with each other, with some nations forming alliances while others formed permanent enemies. In line with this, there are specific war incidences which were fought that had specific impact on the participants and on other people who surrounded the place of incidences. Okinawa is one of the regions in Asia which experienced hot blood battles that are still remembered even in the modern times.
The attacks of the Kamikaze were perceived as effective by the Japanese military only for them to fail at the last minute. This was not without inflicting a lot of casualty on the United States military. More so, this was accompanied by mass suicides of the Japanese civilians. The heavy casualties during this war led to Congressional investigation of the conduct of military officials.
Additionally, Okinawa played a critical role in assisting both the United States and Japan to execute their strategies. This was promoted by the fact that Okinawa was strategically placed geographically, and the Okinawans played a critical role, both to the Japanese and the United States soldiers. On the other hand, history has serious records of suffering and other challenges which were faced by the Marines and the Army. These challenges hindered the movements of both the Marines and the Army as they advanced towards their enemies. This has resulted in reforms in the military to ensure that the World War II mistakes are avoided at all costs.
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